“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it doesn’t occur to him to pull rather than push.”
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ben is 30 years old and the CEO of a high-growth and venture-backed Canadian tech start-up.
As I studied him deeply when speaking to me in our first session together, I noticed that he was yawning frequently. He had dark bags under his eyes. During a pause in our conversation, I asked him about it:
Me: “Ben, you’ve been yawning a lot. Are you tired?”
Ben: “No. I’m not tired.” (instant response)
Me: “Are you getting enough sleep?”
Ben: “Yes.” (surprised look on his face)
Me: “How do you know?”
Ben: “I get 6 hours of sleep per night. That should be more than enough.” (confidently, with a hint of irritation)
Me: “I see.” (unconvinced)
Me: “Are you waking up without an alarm?”
Me: “Are you waking up feeling refreshed?”
Ben: “No … erm … actually most of the time I have to drag myself out of bed.”
Me: “Ben, it doesn’t sound like you’re getting enough sleep. You wake up feeling exhausted and you’re yawning in meetings. What’s this costing you? What’s this costing your shareholders?”
Ben looked at me like a deer in the headlights, and I could tell that he’d had an insight. He’d been convinced that the way to measure “enough sleep” was by hitting a specific number.
If the number matched “his program” then he’d check the box, move on and ignore all evidence to the contrary.
Essentially, he saw himself as a machine. In fact, as I later discovered, most of his problems, in his own mind, came down to a lack of discipline. If he could operate like a machine, then his problems would be solved.
Provide food (read: fuel) and six hours sleep (read: oil), then press the “high-performance” button and go.
Stories like, “six hours of sleep should be enough,” “no pain, no gain,” and “the world operates as a machine,” create our personal reality. But even if we feel we have plenty of evidence for the correctness of our story, and firmly believe our story is true, that doesn’t mean it’s universally true.
Our personal story tends to act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. This story creates a specific personal experience with evidence supporting itself, which in turn further solidifies the story. This is the proverbial box we all find ourselves in.
Our current paradigm (read: story) is largely materialistic and Newtonian-Cartesian in nature. It has been for hundreds of years. In this paradigm the world operates as a machine and on mechanistic principles.
Think car engine or computer program. When X happens, Y occurs. It’s linear cause and effect.
In this world reality is predetermined and predictable. Human beings as a result tend to feel like powerless victims or cogs in a wheel in a cold and mechanical universe.
That’s not an optimal paradigm for happiness and high-performance nor does it actually align with the facts when scrutinized more closely (for more on that I highly recommend reading “Why Materialism Is Baloney” by Dr. Bernardo Kastrup).
But you are not a machine. Life is not a machine.
As some of our greatest quantum physicists have shown, you are mindful matter living in a quantum universe.
And that means quantum leaps are possible.
“Most people see the world as a threatening place and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.”
– Paulo Coelho